Here is an analysis that examines what could be changed in US-UK relations after Blair's leaving and gives some information about successor Goldon Brown's political and personal life, also explains his US "close" friends, published by Washingtonpost on Friday.
Gordon Brown, who is set to become prime minister of Britain on June 27, was sitting in the White House one day last month chatting with national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley when, as Brown later put it, "President Bush happened to drop in for a meeting."
Two of the world's most powerful politicians, in their first substantial conversation, chatted for 45 minutes about Iraq, Afghanistan and world trade. White House officials said the meeting was "hardly happenstance" but planned in advance.
The fact that the icebreaking session was held so quietly, and that the British finance minister so carefully played down his first meeting with the U.S. president, illustrates the pickle in which Brown finds himself as he prepares to take over from Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair on Thursday announced a date for his long-expected departure from office, June 27.
Brown, 56, has more knowledge and experience regarding the United States than perhaps any British leader in history, according to analysts here. He has studied U.S. politics, economics and social policy intimately. He vacations on Cape Cod and has "extraordinarily close friendships in U.S. political circles."
But analysts here say the British public's feelings toward Bush and the Iraq war -- and Blair's support for both -- mean that Prime Minister Brown will have to maintain a certain distance from the White House, at least until next year's presidential election.
"His personal relations with Bush will be much cooler, and deliberately so," said James Naughtie, a prominent BBC radio broadcaster who wrote a book about the relationship between Brown and Blair. "He won't stand up and take Bush on in some crude way. But I would not be at all surprised if over the next six or nine months there is some collision and headlines here say relations with Washington have cooled. Brown knows that large numbers of people in this country would say, 'At last!' "
Brown and Blair, whose partnership and rivalry have dominated British politics for a decade, based their political coming-of-age largely on an American model: Bill Clinton's 1992 election victory.
That year, the two ambitious young politicians saw their Labor Party drubbed yet again by the Conservative Party. Brown and Blair decided that if they were to end Labor's time in the wilderness, by then almost 15 years, they needed to learn from the modern political machine the U.S. Democrats had built in Little Rock.
Brown, the serious, intellectual son of a no-nonsense Scottish minister, traveled to the United States to see how Clinton and freewheeling aides such as James Carville created politics and policy and sold them to the public. Over the years Brown has become friends with key Democratic figures, including political strategist Bob Shrum and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
He has remained a regular visitor to the United States. "The first thing he does when he goes to America is to go to Barnes & Noble and load up on the latest political and economic books," Naughtie said. "He is steeped in the whole public discourse in America in a way that Blair isn't."
What Brown learned in the early 1990s he brought back to Britain, where he and Blair created New Labor and employed many Clinton-inspired techniques and policies -- not the least of which was the wisdom of moving a traditionally left-wing party to the political center. They won a landslide victory in 1997.
Blair, the telegenic communicator, became prime minister and, in a secret political deal endlessly speculated upon here, the brooding and wonkish Brown became chancellor of the exchequer, Britain's finance minister. Blair kept control of foreign policy and key areas such as education, but essentially ceded economic policy and much of the domestic agenda to Brown, who has become the longest-serving chancellor since the 1820s.
Brown's close friend and economic adviser, former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who has visited Brown in his Scottish home town of Kirkcaldy, once described him as "without peer among the world's economic policymakers."
Now, as Brown prepares to take power, analysts say he must prove himself in foreign affairs. Brown has been a fervent supporter of development, anti-poverty and HIV-AIDS programs in Africa, but largely absent on other major international issues.
"Gordon Brown plays his cards very close to his chest," said Anthony King, professor of British government at the University of Essex. "Given that he's been in public life for 20 years, it's remarkable how little people think they know about what he's likely to do next. His pronouncements on Iraq are deliberately vague; you're not meant to know what he thinks. He makes the Sphinx look voluble."
Neal Lawson, a former Brown adviser who now runs Compass, a center-left political advocacy group in London, said Brown's foreign policy is a closely held mystery: "I don't think it's even clear who's advising Gordon on foreign policy," he said. "Nobody seems to know."
None of the analysts interviewed said they anticipated major or immediate foreign policy changes under Brown. Blair has already announced that Britain will reduce its troop presence in Iraq to about 5,000 by this summer, and the analysts say Brown is not likely to make dramatic changes to that strategy.
They say Brown is likely to continue a long-standing British commitment to seeking solutions to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is unclear how Brown will handle Iran's nuclear ambitions, although Naughtie said Brown might be more likely than Blair to get involved in direct talks with Tehran.
One of Brown's priorities will be to distinguish himself from Blair, whose once-soaring approval ratings now stand at 28 percent, largely because of Iraq and the widely held British perception that Blair has been "Bush's poodle." At the same time, the analysts said, Brown will be careful not to damage relations with Britain's most important ally.
"The Labor Party does expect some clear blue water between Brown and Blair in order to start the healing process after Iraq," said Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a policy group. "But Brown will have a subtle balancing act in the near term. He's not going to be a poodle; he is going to assert British interests. But there will be no open breach with the White House."
The analysts said Brown's relations with the White House could change if a Democrat is elected to succeed Bush. "These are Brown's closest political friends in the world," Leonard said. "He shares their positions, interests and worldview."
But the analysts also noted that Brown is a pragmatist. Naughtie said, for example, that Brown has "close relations with Paul D. Wolfowitz", the embattled World Bank president and a leading architect of the Iraq war.
"Brown is not an ideologue," Naughtie said. "But I do think that he will be acutely aware of the damage that Blair has suffered from appearing to have surrendered his judgment to Washington. Brown will have to play this much more cleverly."
While Brown has been a successful steward of Britain's economy, he suffers from a broad perception that he lacks Blair's charisma and instinctive connection with people. He also has been criticized for being controlling and intolerant of views different from his own. One former aide recently called Brown's management style "Stalinist."
Brown was a bookish whiz kid from a mining and linoleum-producing town in Scotland. He entered the University of Edinburgh at 16, one of the school's youngest-ever students. A rugby injury when he was a teenager left him blind in his left eye; when he gives speeches, he uses notes printed in extra-large type. Friends said the injury only increased his determination to succeed.
Brown devoted himself fully to work, and was nearly 50 before he married Sarah Macaulay, a public relations executive, in 2000. Their first child, Jennifer, was born prematurely and died in January 2002. They had a son, John, in 2003. A second son, James Fraser, was born last summer and suffers from cystic fibrosis. Friends have said his daughter's death and son's illness have focused Brown more on life beyond his mountain of policy papers.
With sweaters and open-necked shirts, and a smile that often looks as though his wife made him wear it, Brown has attempted in the past year to present himself as more relaxed. But his serious side still dominates.
"Brown is much more cautious than Blair," Naughtie said. "Brown is a man who always has a plan. He is a thinker who goes through everything. Once he comes to a conclusion after considering everything, he is sure he can't be wrong."
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